21 February 2018


Floating Water [Maker Update #72]

The best maker projects, tools, and tips of the week

This week on Maker Update, levitating water with LEDs, 3D printed skull buttons, servos on Pi, a game of Twang, Arduino animatronics, and project talk with Becky Stern. This week’s Cool Tool is the EBL 18650 Rechargeable Battery.

Show notes

-- Donald Bell 02/21/18

21 February 2018


Post Level

Levels posts and beams

If you’ve got a bunch of 4×4 posts to install on a deck or fence or whatever, this tool is *sooooo* useful. It is a simple thing that wraps around two sides of a 4×4 so that you can level two planes at once. Big ol’ rubber bands attach it to the side and wrap around it four inches or so, and it has three levels built into it so you can level in two directions at the same time. Guys I know who do this for a living carry at least a pair of these, if not several pairs. You just leave one strapped onto the far pole, or each post/corner of a deck, to make sure it remains unchanged while you jiggle the near one. I use one if I’m building shelves in a vertical position, or for anything that requires leveling on two planes at once. It’s in that “why didn’t I think of that?” category.

-- Paul Hoffman 02/21/18

(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2006 — editors)

20 February 2018


The Shade Retractable Windshield Sunshade

Quick retractable auto shade

Conventional car shades are unwieldy, prone to slipping off, and awkward to store.

The Shade requires careful installation, but thereafter takes only a second to put up or roll away. This makes one much more likely to use it regularly, resulting in fewer surprises when those clouds vanish midday. It is well built, sturdy, and reliable. The retraction mechanism on my original unit is as strong and smooth as on a new one; I know, because I’ve bought eight more of these shades over the years for friends and family. The glue for the mounting brackets is strong stuff, my right-hand brackets fell off this summer, but that was after six years of New Mexico sun. Replacement brackets were $5, and my Shade is now remounted and ready for another six years.

They are sized to fit different car models.

-- Ed Santiago 02/20/18

(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2006 — editors)

19 February 2018


Hi-Lift Jack

Moving up

When trying to move Very Large Objects don’t forget the Hi-Lift Jack, able to lift 7000 lbs 4 feet or more. After a flood moved a 60 ft. barn where I lived, I moved it right back where it belonged with that jack, and a few pulls on a come-along. The Hi-Lift is great for extracting fence posts, too. While living on a nature preserve, I jacked out several miles of steel fence posts and dozens of big gate posts complete with concrete wad still stuck on using a Hi-Lift Jack. Also levelled our house, which was 6 inches out of level, one click per day, without breaking any windows. No problems. It’s a big bad beast, but a good-‘un. It can also serve as a high labor, low frequency log splitter (good upper body exercise)! You can buy wheels for it (but they’ll only work on smooth hard surfaces) and a neat “sheath” for stowing it theft-resistantly in or on your vehicle. However, as someone once told me: “Never let go of the handle while lowering the load or you’ll EAT TEETH!” — a worthwhile reminder for users of this pre-OSHA device.

The Hi-Lift comes in a number of lengths in either cast or steel. I like the cast model best, as it seems to be more durable in heavy use. The 60-incher is not rated to take a full load to 60 inches, and it is heavy enough to be damned awkward to carry around. The 48″ is perfectly fine — though no lightweight — and the one I use.

-- J. Baldwin 02/19/18

(Northern Tool and Harbor Freight both carry a Chinese-made version, called a Farm Jack for $50. Available from Northern Tool & Equipment. -- KK This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2006 — editors)

18 February 2018


Play blues guitar/Best belts/Pain exercise

Recomendo: issue no. 81

Learn to play blues guitar in 10 minutes
I’ve been building 3-string guitars for about 10 years. It’s easy to do and they sound better than you probably think. Learn how to make one at Cigar Box Nation. They are even easier to play. Here’s a 10-minute video that will have you sounding like you know what you’re doing. — MF

Best belts
I no longer use leather belts. I use only nylon web belts, sometimes called tactical or military belts, even for dress. They look like a belt but since they don’t have holes, they are infinitely adjustable. And they use hard plastic for the buckle so I don’t have to remove it in airports. There are many styles and colors, all can be trimmed for length. The one I use is this generic model. — KK

Pain management skill
I love Brené Brown’s exercise of repeating “Pain, pain, pain, pain, pain,” to instantly release yourself of the fight or flight mentality. I first heard it in her Men, Women, and Worthiness talk (which I highly recommend), but the full embarrassing story behind it can be read here. — CD

Highlight text on web pages and share
The Marker.to chrome extension is handy for highlighting text on any web page and sharing. A special link is created for you to copy and paste and any one can view your highlighted page without having to download the extension. — CD

The best scratching post
I love the $40 SmartCat Ultimate Scratching Post as much as my cats do. Not because I sharpen my claws on it, but because they’ve stopped destroying the carpets and furniture. As an unintended bonus, the top has a very small perch that one of my cats practically lives on. — MF

Secure travel docs
I stow PDF scans of my passport, visas, itinerary and key travel docs in my Dropbox, which show up in the Dropbox app on my phone so I always have them in case of loss while traveling overseas. — KK

Recomendo now has a Facebook page! Follow us for daily recommendations.


17 February 2018


Three Jaw Brace

Human-powered driver

Ever have to fight with a thirty foot cord on a cold day? This tool has no cord. And no batteries. No worry about theft, obsolescence, charging. Imagine being able to remove #4 Phillips screws, long embedded with their heads effectively stripped before they were painted over. By hand. The same tool, with a “no moving parts” adapter, is a speed wrench for 3/8″ drive sockets. And you can use 1/4″ hex bits as well.

The traditional hand brace does all this, and weighs less than a commercial-duty battery pack. That’s why I have two old braces in my on-site tool kit, where I do a vast array of kludge-like repairs to building systems — everything from removing the third set of windows in a building’s life, to re-hanging wood and steel doors (remember those stripped, self-tapping, Phillips screws?), boring holes to run a fish-tape through, and taking mechanical stuff apart.

It will accept traditional square-taper auger bits, and with its three jaw chuck, any round or hex shank tool up to about 15 mm (9/16″) diameter. This, together with two power tools — a 25-year-old Black and Decker screw gun, and a Makita 7 1/4″ circular saw — makes my tool kit.

-- Lou Parsons 02/17/18

(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2006 — editors)


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Fluke VoltAlert

Electricity finder

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Nelson Dellis, USA Memory Champion

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PowerLix Popcorn Popper

Collapsible silicone bowl microwave popper

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Olfa Carpet Cutter

Heavy duty cutter

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Ellipse Half Mask Respirator

Protection against hazardous and toxic dust particles, fumes and mist metal

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23 February 2017



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